Isolation Reading for the Week of June 8

Here at UTP, we’ve decided to bring you some great books chosen by our staff for your work-from-home reading. Check in with us every Monday for some fantastic book recommendations. This week, Barb Porter, an associate managing editor at the press, has given us her staff pick. Enjoy!

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In these quarantimes we are encouraged to stay in as much as possible, and naturally our minds are turning to cooking. I have found myself flipping through cookbooks old and new, sometimes when I need an actual recipe and sometimes just for fun. For me, The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi falls into the fun category.

Scappi wrote his magnum opus after a lifetime in the kitchen. His treatise is written as a manual for his apprentice Giovanni, and Scappi has a lot of knowledge to impart. Beginning by detailing how to set up and fit out a kitchen, he moves on to outline where to source the best ingredients and how to keep them fresh. No detail is too small, and we learn that the best butter is produced from March to May, almond oil should be made only from Milanese almonds, and horsehair filters are best for straining wheat flour.

The bulk of the book is devoted to his recipes, and while I’m not sure I’d care for sugar and rosewater on my pizza, poaching eggs on a shovel sounds kind of fun. Measurements are mostly not provided, but he goes into great detail about methods, often explaining why he cooks something a certain way, or offering variations.

At a time when concentrating at length can be a challenge, this book is great for dipping in and out. If I need a 5-minute break, I can learn how to make a pottage of tiny white snails, or a hazelnut dish. No matter what he’s cooking, Scappi proves himself a fine kitchen companion, and his Opera is worth a look.

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Click here to find out more about The Opera of Bartolomeo Scappi (1570).